Part 1: Aiming For Euphoria With ALA Chelation
If you’ve read my other writings, you know I detoxed heavy metals post-holistic amalgam removal with saunas, rebounding, nutrient dense food, supplementation & other natural remedies like herbal cleanses.
I feel better than I have in years, in large part, because mercury is not flooding in from the “silver” fillings that I had safely removed. My heavy metal tests confirm that mercury is no longer increasing and that my body is eliminating mercury from extracellular areas.
However, there are still numerous brain, tissue, and central nervous system related symptoms:
- Mild brain-fog, anxiety, fatigue, and less mental sharpness
- Head pressure like a constant tight band around my head
- Over-taxed and damaged organs (liver, spleen, gall bladder, uterus, gut)
- Disrupted endocrine system (hormones, sleep)
- Cellulite (the body safely tucks away toxins in fat)
- Nutrient malabsorption (e.g. low ferritin levels)
- Seasonal allergies
Mercury not only stays in the body for a long time, it wreaks havoc all over the body. It hides away in bones, fatty tissue, and organs, and crosses the blood brain barrier (BBB) where it binds with the fatty organ known as the brain and disrupts numerous biological processes. But the real kicker: Mercury and electromagnetic field radiation (EMR) have a synergistic negative effect causing many of the symptoms above.
To my knowledge, Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) may be the only way to move mercury out of the brain. [*See update below] So I moved from detoxing to chelating with frequent, low-doses of ALA around my one year amalgam-free anniversary and set out to learn as much as I possibly could.
What follows are my notes on ALA chelation from reading Cutler’s book on amalgam illness, forum posts, asking questions, doctor visits, etc. It is a long post because it is where I keep all of the key info I refer back to personally:
- Who Is Cutler & Why The Controversy?
- What Is Chelation?
- What Is ALA?
- The AC ALA Chelation Protocol: Half-Life, & Mercury Redistribution, Rounds, Dosing and Supplements
- When Not To Chelate
- My Trial Week Journal (Dosing, Scheduling, & Lessons Learned)
- Appendix: Resources, DMSA & DMPS
Q: What could someone expect as side effects [of ALA]?
A: “The symptoms due to heavy metals can get worse while you are giving the LA. Other random new symptoms can appear, too, like obsessiveness or depression or euphoria.” Culter
Who Is Cutler & Why The Controversy?
Dr. Andrew Hall Cutler (AC), Princeton chemistry PhD, came up with a protocol to heal himself from amalgam mercury toxicity. He wrote books about heavy metal poisoning, hair testing, and chelation. He explains:
“I wrote this book because I became seriously ill while most doctors told me there was nothing wrong. After an “environmental medicine” doctor suggested I had amalgam illness I had to read lots of medical literature to figure out what was going on and what to do about it. I got better after having my fillings replaced and taking appropriate chelating agents.” (Cutler)
The AC ALA Chelation Protocol has helped many and also hurt some. There are a lot of reasons why I believe this could be the case. Since this protocol can be done without a practitioner, and is often done by patients who are mercury poisoned, many things can go wrong. Here are a few examples:
- The protocol needs to be followed VERY carefully — not always easy with a mercurial brain or when sleep-deprived.
- It is easy to miss a dose, especially in the middle of the night or on a busy day, or any day when one has brain fog. If a dose is missed by more than an hour, you MUST STOP the round. However, stopping a round early means there will be too much mercury redistribution.
- Some try to chelate while still having amalgams or other mercury exposure.
- Some start the doses too high. In fact, the original high-end of Cutler’s dose range may have been too high. He since addressed that.
- Some try to raise the doses too quickly — it is tempting to think increasing the dose will get more mercury out but this is not true! This may be because the body can only handle chelating what it is able to eliminate without getting backed up.
- Elimination pathways need to be working well to get rid of all of the heavy metals that are mobilized, adrenals need to be healthy, the body needs to have the right co-factors which are often lacking, and adequate hydration is imperative.
- Some want to chelate non-stop to get more mercury out. However, down-time must be taken between rounds to give the body a break. Otherwise, adrenal fatigue and other problems may arise.
- A smaller number of people have allergic reactions to ALA, DMSA, or DMPS or have sulphur issues.
- Some health practitioners will insist ALA is bad and suggest taking R-lipoic acid. R-lipoic acid is not the same as using ALA for chelation. Cutler covers this in his book.
- Cutler’s book is difficult to read. Lots of science! Understanding the science or biology can be confusing (e.g. see half-life below).
From what I understand, chelation is the process of binding an organic compound (e.g. a dithiol agent like ALA) to a metal ion (like mercury) to pull it from the body. The word is derived from the Greek work “chele” meaning claw.
To chelate mercury, Cutler recommends avoiding thiol binders and using at least one of three dithiol binders:
Thiols, like chlorella and cilantro, are natural detoxifiers that only have one binding claw. They are more likely to grab hold of heavy metals with one claw and easily release the metals at random places in the body. That can lead to redistribution.
Dithiols — ALA, DMSA, and DPMS — are chelators with two binding claws (hence “di” meaning two) that more efficiently grab mercury, hold on to it, and drop it off at the correct place for detoxing and elimination. This is different from detoxification with thiol binders. e.g. A crab grabbing hold with one vs. two claws
e.g. A football receiver catching a football with one hand vs. two and then getting tackled. A two-handed catch is more likely to result in a completed pass
In Cutler’s book, forums, and interviews he said only the anti-oxidant ALA is necessary for chelation and that the other two synthetic (not made in the body) chelators, DMSA & DPMS, are optional for mercury chelation.
I believed DMSA & DMPS were not a good choice for me. While they may expedite mercury chelation and chelate lead and arsenic, I met with a mercury support group as part of my research and the people using DMSA and DMPS were having a difficult time. At one point I tried to incorporate a very low amount of DMSA from LivingSupplements and would never try it again nor recommend it. So I mostly cover ALA in this post and have written a few notes about DMSA&DMPS in the appendix below.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
Lipoic acid (LA), also known as α-lipoic acid, alpha lipoic acid (ALA) and thioctic acid is an organosulfur compound derived from octanoic acid. LA contains two sulfur atoms (at C6 and C8) connected by a disulfide bond and is thus considered to be oxidized although either sulfur atom can exist in higher oxidation states. (Wikipedia)
ALA is an anti-oxidant manufactured in the body. However, ALA is often not made in the body in the amounts necessary for metabolic processes, including glucose metabolism, energy production, and supporting the nervous system and liver function.
Because ALA is water and fat soluble, it can cross the blood brain barrier (BBB), and according to Cutler’s theory, latch on to mercury and pull it out of the brain! I once heard ALA described as an elite military operator — when it is in the body, it neutralizes harmful free radicals and chelates both intracellular and extracellular mercury (and arsenic) from the brain and nervous system.
So how did Cutler know once ALA crosses the BBB that it can chelate mercury out of the brain?
While a hair test can indicate heavy metal burden in an individual, there is no true way to measure the amount of mercury in the brain and how much is eliminated unless an autopsy is performed. So how did Cutler arrive at his conclusion? Here are a few of his words I found helpful:
So we have journal papers that say lipoic acid crosses the BBB, lipoic acid chelates mercury (and tons of other stuff), lipoic acid increases urinary and fecal excretion of mercury, lipoic acid is effective for treating mercury poisoning in a variety of mammals, lipoic acid prevents the pathological brain changes characteristic of mercury poisoning, and we have a bunch of adults who tried it and have had their neurological and centrally mediated endocrine symptoms cured. This set of facts leads me to conclude lipoic acid effectively chelates mercury out of the human brain. It is up to you what you make of it. Andy Cutler
The 1979 Gigiena Truda paper by Leskova is the best journal article on the subject. Of course the more definitive proof is all the formerly mercury toxic people around who got that way using lipoic acid, including by now a few formerly autistic kids. Andy
To be honest, I am not 100% sure what I “make of it”. The 1979 Gigiena Truda paper by Leskova is a Russian study based on rats so Cutler did have to extrapolate. I eventually landed here: If Cutler is correct about ALA chelating mercury out of the brain, that would be amazing! And if Cutler is not correct, ALA does chelate mercury from the body I have plenty of mercury stored in my organs and fat cells. I also had a feeling that I would have to try the protocol to know how it affected me to validate what other formerly mercury toxic Cutler followers felt so definitive about.
The more important question for me was – how to use ALA safely in order to prevent mercury from repeatedly settling in the brain and organs and causing more damage.
The AC ALA Chelation Protocol
Half-life & Mercury Redistribution: Half-life, in short, is the time it takes to break down and eliminate a substance from the body. Medication is often dosed in this way to provide a steady level of the chemical in the blood over a given period of time.
Cutler says ALA’s half-life is 3 hours. That means it takes 3 hours for the body to break down ALA and eliminate it from the body. Thus, the protocol requires chelation with ALA frequently, i.e. at its half-life every 3 hours, to ensure that ALA is constantly in the body to escort mercury out and prevent redistribution into tissue and organs for each round.
Breaking down ALA chelation further:
- A low dose of ALA is taken e.g. 1-50mg.
- That ALA goes around the body in search of mercury.
- When the ALA finds mercury, it grabs it and takes it to the correct elimination facility where it is removed from the body through urine, feces, and sweat.
- This is why elimination pathways should be working well and hydration is extremely important. “72% leaves in feces, 28% in urine. If you sweat you get rid of extra. DMSA and DMPS make more come out in urine. You excrete lots on your ow[n] without chelators.” Cutler
- To minimizes elimination pathway bottle-necks and prevent damaging organs, the ALA dose should be low enough so that it is not more than the body and organs can efficiently clear.
- From a timing perspective, some of the ALA crosses the blood brain barrier and supposedly binds to mercury in the brain. This new compound passes through the liver (it takes a day to be moved out in the bile) and into the gastrointestinal tract and the kidneys. Two days after an ALA round begins, mercury is then excreted in the stool. “It also does clear some in urine, and once in the blood mercury comes out in urine and stool on its own as well.” Cutler.
- At ALA’s half-life of 3 hours, ALA expires or starts to go away. Any mercury that had been picked up (a.k.a mobilized) by the expiring ALA, and not yet eliminated, can then be released and redistribute back into the brain, organs, tissues, etc. and cause harm all over again.
- Replenishing ALA at its half-life means new ALA is continuously available to pick up mobilized mercury and escort it out through the elimination pathways instead. I think of it as a hand-off from one employee leaving a job and another seamlessly taking its place.
- Bound mercury is continually excreted until the end of each round.
- At the end of the round, the last ALA half-life, there will be a small amount of mercury left that does get redistributed. In a perfect world this is not ideal. But, according to Cutler’s science, taking ALA every 3 hours for a 72 hour round means that there will be a net movement of mercury out of the body and only a small amount left to redistribute after the last dose of ALA. The body supposedly can heal from this small amount.
- There is an exception to this rule. Some people will need to take the ALA even more frequently if their body metabolizes it faster.
Is a round 64, 72 hours, or longer?
- In Cutler’s book, a round is 72 hours. Typically 3 day on / 4 day off.
- Online Cutler says “The correct interpretation is from arising on day 1 to bedtime on day 3. This typically is 64 hours for those who sleep 8 hours a night.”
- From my research, 72 hours is optimal to chelate unless you are a child in school chelating over the weekend and can only do 64 hours.
- Taking ALA every three hours over the minimum time needed to have a net movement of mercury out of the body that exceeds the amount redistributed (64+ hours) ensures that there is a net removal of mercury.
- Rounds can be longer than 3 days, but there should be an equal amount of time off round as spent on. For example, a 7 day round requires a 7 day break. This may be harder on the adrenals but I believe it mean less mercury redistribution.
- ALA causes less copper to be released during rounds causing problems in the long-term (especially for copper toxic people) so the off-days are important to allow balance to return to the body.
What is the correct dose?
- Being too aggressive with dosing sizes may lead to painful side-effects such as adrenal fatigue, allergic reactions, headaches, etc., so I started with a low dose.
- The body does not release mercury consistently, so dosages need to be increased after using the same dose for many rounds with diminished or no side effects.
- If no symptoms after several rounds, the dose can be increased by no more than 50% e.g. 1%, 5% or 10% are all less than 50%. Stay low until a lot of rounds are completed.
- If too many symptoms in a round, the dose needs to be reduced the next round but do not to stop the round early if possible. At least try to make it to 64 hours.
- Do not expect symptom-free rounds. I read the most common side-effect is fatigue but for me it was headaches.
How long does one chelate?
- In his book, Cutler estimated that ALA + DMSA “removes about 1/2 to 1% of the mercury in the brain every day that you chelate” p 90. Cutler likely determined this from the Russian rat study (100mg of ALA + DMSA…)
- Frequent-low-dose chelation can take anywhere from 70-300 rounds to recover (1 – 3 years) with 70 rounds chelating out 50% of total mercury from the brain.
- Cutler advises to continue chelation for another 6 months to a year AFTER you think you’re well. Wait a few months, and start another round at a lower dose, just to make sure.
- Cutler allegedly followed his protocol for around 9 months and did not finish chelating although he planned to start again.
- According to Cutler, mercury has been removed when one can take high doses of the chelators with no side-effects. (e.g. 200 mg.) I read that it can take years to get to the maximum dose of ALA per day of about 1200 mg over twenty-four hours without causing bad or intolerable side effects (1). That is not my end goal.
Supplements According To Cutler
- Dithiols pull on both mercury AND essential minerals so supplementing is critical.
- Antioxidant vitamins C, B, & E and zinc & magnesium need to be taken while chelating on and off rounds to support detox pathways and minimize symptoms.
- ALA enhances the activity of vitamins C and E.
- Many are deficient in specific micronutrients due to genetics or lack of minerals in modern industrialized food so test and supplement accordingly.
- In addition, hair tests using Cutler’s counting rules may show deranged mineral transport.
- Mercury often interferes with the metabolism of sulphur foods. According to Cutler a “high sulphur” person may need to limit the ALA dose amount and/or limit sulphur foods (like dairy, eggs, garlic, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower with free thiols.) To figure this out, test plasma cysteine – if high, avoid, if low, continue eating. (Read molybdenum info in Part 2.)
- It took a lot of time for me to research and purchase ALA and the support supplements that I was not already taking. And then more time to trial the new support supplements to make sure they didn’t cause any negative reactions. I write about this in: Part 2: Chelating ALA: Procuring Supplies & Resources.
When Not To Chelate
According to Cutler, a recent mercury exposure means one needs to wait at least 3 months before chelating. In other words, only chelate if ALL of the amalgam fillings metal is removed from the mouth (including under crowns) and there has been no recent exposure to mercury from the amalgam removal, flu shots, broken compact fluorescent lightbulb or thermometer exposure, high mercury fish consumption or other sources like some broken cell phones.
Cutler’s reasoning: The amount of mercury in the body needs to be less than the amount in the brain to prevent ALA from redistributing mercury from the body to the brain via the path of least resistance vs. out the elimination pathways.
Unfortunately, while attempting to remove my lighting kit with 18 CFL’s, I was exposed to mercury from a broken CFL. That was my first experience with acute mercury poisoning (i.e. not chronic like from amalgams). As I carefully discarded the broken CFL bulb, I hoped that it had broken months prior and the mercury had maybe settled and was not airborne. However, that night I experienced fever sweats, joint and muscle aches, brain inflammation, headaches, etc. Regardless of what government organizations say, no amount of mercury is “safe”.
I explained what happened to Cutler on a Facebook group and asked if it was safe to start ALA. He said yes, so I decided to do a trial week of ALA chelation. After that week, I decided it would be better for my brain to postpone chelation for three months and switched gears to parasite cleansing. Two noteworthy lessons: one, radiation from a nearby cell tower was a major reason why chelating resulted in painful symptoms and two, I maybe would have taken DMSA to mop up the CFL mercury as it can be taken after 4 days of exposure (or four days after amalgam restoration is completed).
My Trial ALA Week Following The AC ALA Chelation Protocol
Because of the broken CFL mercury exposure, I started ALA at a lower dose of 12 mg instead of Cutler’s recommendation of 1/8 mg per pound of body weight up to 1/2 mg per lb. (In my case that would have been 17 mg to 68 mg.)
I started my round on Monday at 11am, taking 12 mg of ALA every 3 hours for 72 hours around the clock without missing a dose. Major symptoms: fever sweat, fatigue, neck pinch.
- I am glad I did a trial run of ALA chelation and no longer have fear of the unknown. Three days and three nights answered so many questions without feeling like I was signing up for a two to three-year-long sleep deprivation sentence. (With a mercurial brain, I made preparing for ALA chelation more complicated than necessary.)
- I need to get in a good sleep pattern even with mercury messing up melatonin production. Waking up 3 times by alarm at night for three nights sucks to put it nicely. Waking up in the middle of a deep REM cycle is even more disruptive.
- Stretching out the night doses to every four hours twice during the night is ok so I do. However, this means each day the dosing time changes by and hour and can impact having a consistent bed time.
- Having a good alarm system in place so I didn’t miss a dose was extremely important! I use two alarms so I have a fail-safe in case I do not hear one of the alarms or accidentally set one alarm incorrectly (which I surprisingly do more than I would think).
- 1. An itouch (on airplane mode) – set the alarm for 24 hours before the round. Because I switch to dosing every four hours at night I have to shift the alarms each day.
- 2. A four event timer – set the 4 alarms to go off 5 minutes after the itouch alarms. I was surprised how I could not remember if I took the ALA or not moments later so I only turn off this timer after I physically take the ALA. At night, I sometimes need this loud buzzing alarm after sleeping through the itouch music alarm.
- After the last ALA half-life wears off I took a sauna (three hours after the last dose of ALA) to help excrete mercury. I experienced no noticeable symptoms or side-effects when I did this.
- Keep a journal, number each round, and document symptoms in case you need to look back. Honestly, I cannot remember one round from the next most days unless I look back at my notes.
I chelated full-time with higher doses of ALA for a while. I did not have major symptoms on or off round from chelating and had less brain fog and more mental sharpness with each passing round. However, I felt what I call a burn on the back of my neck on day one of each round and stopped chelating until I was able to be in a home environment with very minimal EMF.
Sadly, I learned most of the symptoms I mentioned at the start of this post were from cell tower radiation. A cell tower with four powerful antennas was placed less than 200 feet from my apartment. Did you know that Radio Frequency (RF) radiation from cell towers and wireless devices accelerates the release of mercury from amalgams? From a recent Iran study:
“Effect of radio frequency radiation from Wi-Fi devices on mercury release from amalgam restorations” (Source: Study published on NIH.gov)
In a vicious cycle, mercury released from the amalgams into the body and brain then acts as an antenna attracting more radiation.
So if I had anything of value to add to the AC ALA Chelation Protocol it would be this: DO NOT CHELATE IF EXPOSED TO HIGH LEVELS OF ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION! (This includes cell phones, tablets, wireless routers and other devices that are in your homes and in closest proximity to you. Read how to eliminate or reduce radiation by clicking here )
On the 29th of July 2017 Cutler passed away. I feel fortunate to have been able to have had the opportunity to ask him personal questions on several different occasions. His passing gave me pause for thought as I read he had stopped chelating at one point and did not finish.
I no longer use Cutler’s ALA chelation protocol and I switched to an intuitive whole-food protocol which is less complicated and resonates with my body, mind and soul. I drink a delicious heavy metal detox smoothie daily (with lots of cilantro) and detox my liver by eating a low-fat plant-based diet, taking clean supplements, and reducing adrenal stress (including not waking up every 3-4 hours in the night to take ALA and researching ad nauseam!) I also added homeopathy and switched to intuitive energy healing.
♥ Be Gutsy!
There is plenty of info on how to chelate online without spending upwards of $80 on Cutler’s books. However, I will not expose my body to anything without educating myself as much as possible and have referenced the following repeatedly:
- Both of Cutler’s paper-bound books are well researched and worth the investment — though difficult to grasp. I use Cutler’s second book to interpret heavy metal hair tests and research all of the other modern-day heavy metal toxins we are exposed to like Thallium, Arsenic, Nickel, and Cadmium.
- Many parent’s with autistic children use the protocol to heal their children with the help of a book called Fight Autism And Win. It is only 100 pages and when I received it I thought it was on the pricey side for such a short book. But the book is concise, well-written, and covers how to do the protocol in a much more user-friendly form. I think of it as the cliff notes version of Cutler’s book.
2. Online Forums
- If you have a child that needs chelation, you can join the Fight Autism And Win Facebook Group. Jan, co-author of the book of the same name above, moderates and should win an award for supporting members with such grace, generosity, and knowledge.
- Cutler used to comment on a private Facebook Group and the community is actively moderated by people who use the protocol. It is difficult to search the FB page for info and a lot of newbies who have not read Cutler’s book ask basic questions. There are a a handful of moderators who interacted quite a bit with Cutler and work hard to maintain his legacy as best they can. They are extremely strict and rude in their attempt to be ACC purists.
- Prior to Facebook, Cutler posted in the Yahoo Group Frequent Dose Chelation & Adult Metal Chelation. Both groups were still active at the time I originally wrote this post but Yahoo Groups changed.
- Onibasu Forum is the forum that preceded the Yahoo Groups. It is read only but has a lot of Cutler’s original answers to questions about his protocol. (I prefer using this resource.)
3. Service Providers
- There is a nurse who live in Seattle and worked with client’s chelating using the protocol. She will work with patient’s over the phone, but was booked several months out when I called. In lieu of postponing chelation, I learned as much as I could from Cutler’s book and online resources. I was comfortable moving forward with a trial week knowing that I could stop future rounds and meet with the nurse. One person online even shared that it is more cost-effective to do a trial first so I could share those notes with the nurse. Good tip! Update: Nurse Julie is semi-retired in Arizona and may stop taking patients in the near future. I did not end up working with her for chelation but I found her to be kind and well-versed in health from a holistic perspective.
A Few Notes On DMPS & DMSA
“DMPS and DMSA do not remove mercury from the nervous system and can redistribute mercury to it. It is necessary to use a protocol specifically designed to minimize this… Lipoic acid DOES remove mercury from the nervous system and DOES substantially accelerate mercury clearance. Using DMPS and DMSA with it reduces its side effects, and I speculate that it synergistically accelerates mercury clearance much more than using the agents separately” Cutler p. 202
DPMS (Dimercaptol-propanesulfonic acid)
- According to Doctor’s Data, taking DMPS results in marked increases in copper excretion.
- May be beneficial if cannot use DMSA, and of not lead toxic
- May reduce redistribution when ALA round ends
- 2.5mg taken every 8 hours ongoing unless deciding to take a break
- DMPS is easier all around to start with
DMSA (Dimercaptosuccinic acid)
- May get mercury out of the body around 30% faster than if taking ALA alone according to Culter.
- Water soluble chelator
- Removes mercury and other metals like lead from the body
- Lead protocol: 8 rounds of DMSA then once monthly (not sure how long)
- Can be used several days after an exposure
- Can reduce spaciness and adrenal symptoms from taking ALA alone
- Lowers neutrophils so yeast might become a problem
- “Neutrophils are in charge of killing off extra yeast. Mercury is known to inhibit some of the specific chemistry neutrophils use to kill yeast.” (2).
- “Arginine increases neutrophil production of NO, which neutrophils use to kill yeast. If take too much arginine without lysine may increase susceptibility to certain viral infections.”
- “Taurine increases neutrophil ability to withstand their own OCl- (bleach) which they also use to kill yeast.”
- Also skin reactions for some
- Has sulfury smell when fresh
- DMPS does not need to be increased above 25-50 mg max
Finally, I am so glad I did NOT DO A PROVOCATIVE URINE CHALLENGE TEST! This is often recommended by some Naturopaths, to determine the amount of metals in the body. A hair testing is a safer and less expensive way to test metals in the body for the majority of people without redistributing metals to the brain and other organs. (The challenge test uses high amounts of a chelator like DMPS or DMSA that mobilize high amounts of heavy metals from tissues and organs in the body. Once the high dose of DMSA half-life of three hours passes, the mobilized mercury left in the body will redistribute into the blood and then back into the tissues and organs. I think it is equivalent to getting acute poisoning all over again and can make one more sick. Www.dmpsbackfire.com is often referenced as a placed where people who were harmed by the Provocative tests document their experience.